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Stream of the Crop: 8 New Albums for Heavy Rotation

New albums from SOPHIE, Nas, and Culture Abuse top this week's list of essential new projects.

by Colin Joyce, Kristin Corry, Dan Ozzi, and Alex Robert Ross
Jun 15 2018, 9:21pm

L: Johnny Nunez/WireImage
C: YouTube
R: Alice Baxley

Every week, the Noisey staff puts together a list of the best and most important albums, mixtapes, and EPs from the past week. Sometimes that includes projects we’ve written about on the site already; sometimes it's just made up of great records that we want everyone to hear, but never got the chance to write about. The result is neither comprehensive nor fair. We hope it helps.

SOPHIE: OIL OF EVERY PEARL's UN-INSIDES

SOPHIE was once a thinker so utterly over the idea of making An Album that she released a phallic silicone product alongside an early collection of singles. The suggestion, it seemed, was that both auteurish conceptual substance and marketable packaging for art are ultimately immaterial as far as pure pleasure is concerned, so here, take this dildo-looking thing instead, it might actually be useful. Three years later, her tune has shifted on with the release of OIL OF EVERY PEARL’s UN-INSIDES, an eight song collection that is ostensibly the debut album proper from a producer who’s become one of pop music’s great sound designers.

As you might expect, this thing’s full of satisfying thwacks, pops, cracks and a whole host of sounds that can’t easily be phonetically transcribed. There’s one particularly satisfying bit on “Not Okay” that buzzes and crackles with the foreboding, but sensual energy of a beehive tossed into a club’s darkroom. The previously released singles—“It’s Okay to Cry,” “Ponyboy,” and “Faceshopping”—are the album’s boldest pop gestures, and they’re the record’s first three tracks. Excepting the back-half rave inversion “Immaterial,” one of the record’s most wonderful moments, the rest is largely mistier and more obscure. On the whole it seems to fulfill her long stated goal to look at pop music and “to imagine things that aren't there.” While that doesn’t always mean it’s going for pure dopamine rushes, it’s still immensely satisfying, a crucial record for anyone who’s curious about what might exist in the radioactive borderlands around the thing we call pop. — Colin Joyce

Nas: Nasir

A track titled “Nas Album Done” was included on DJ Khaled’s Major Key and after a two year wait rap fans can finally listen to Nasir. The Kanye-produced album follows 2012’s Life Is Good and brings a modern spin on the boom bap sound he rose to prominence with. Nas is reinstating his role as a hip-hop elder and isn’t going to let you forget it. On “Cops” he samples Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story” on a collaboration with Kanye West about police brutality. “White kids are brought in alive / Brown kids are hit with like five,” he raps. It’s an ironic song choice for Kanye West to be on, given his rhetoric on slavery being a choice. On Nasir, a title that suggests it would be a somewhat personal album, the Queens rapper dodges the rumors that circulated about abuse regarding his ex wife, Kelis. He sums it up to ““So go write whatever blog, messiness is not ever the god /Do what's necessary, I'm never worried,” on “Everything.” Nasir is an album that sounds incredibly of the times, even if we’re wishing he revealed more of himself across the seven tracks. — Kristin Corry

Culture Abuse: Bay Dream

Peach must’ve been an exorcism on Culture Abuse’s soul, because there’s not a trace of aggression left on their follow-up, Bay Dream. The album is a complete 180, the greatest musical about-face since… well, it’s hard to even name a comparable example. While Peach was defined by its thick, punishing guitar tones and Kelling’s visceral gnarls, Bay Dream sounds like it was made by hippies who’ve been hanging out by the beach and listening to Wavves too much. It’s an album Kelling says he hopes people will blast in their car on a sunny day and just cruise around.

Bay Dream kicks off with a Looney Tunes sound effect of a pop gun being fired, as if all the bad vibes are immediately being dashed away, replaced with something cheerier and sometimes downright saccharine. You can almost hear Kelling smiling on one song, as he doles out life advice, “Be kind to the bees, be kind to the bugs, be conscious of others, be careful with drugs,” before topping it off with a self-care reminder: “Be kind to yourself, even though it gets hard, don’t let the distractions stack up to the stars.” — Dan Ozzi, Culture Abuse’s David Kelling Wrote an Album to Let His Mom Know He’s Sorry

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Hope Downs

A lot has been made of this Melbourne quartet's throwback sound—The Go-Betweens and anyone who released a record on Flying Nun between '82 and '99 are the usual reference points. And while that's excellent company to keep, Hope Downs proves there's far more to Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever than a desire to borrow from their Antipodean forefathers. The record clocks in at 35 minutes—only a few minutes longer than their first two jangly, hype-making EPs, The French Press and Talk Tight—but its a step up from both of those lyrically and melodically. Tom Russo, Fran Keaney, and Joe White have suddenly become masters of the pop chorus—"Mainlaind," "Sister's Jeans," and "How Long" all build to laconic and languid singalongs. And the hazy details of forgotten days they try to reconjure say more about "nostalgia" than any treble-driven guitar hook could. You walk past the wall you first kissed her against / How could you forget?" Keaney asks on opener "Air Conditioned Man." And then he rethinks: "Or was it over there? / Did it ever matter in the first place?" The answer is no, it didn't, because the feeling counts for more. They've figured that out already, they just expect the rest of us to get there as well. — Alex Robert Ross

Driftmachine: Shunter

Shunter [is Driftmachine's] fifth release in the last five years and their first that dives headlong into the dewy darkness that their work has often hinted at. Across seven instrumental pieces, they utilize familiar materials—interlocking synth lines and ghostly melodies—to craft spacious and anxious pieces that rumble with the hallucinatory plodding energy of dub, but without any of the general posi vibes. By and large this is music of stark and alien architecture, occasionally interuppted by thudding bass explorations ("Shift III") or plinking abstractions ("Congé").

There is little relief, but in that, paradoxically, I find some relief. Losing myself in a generally anxious and miserable piece of music, I start to see some of its hidden colors. When the overall canvas is grey, your eyes are drawn toward anything that breaks that up. Two bleak synth washes overlapping in just the right way can feel romantic and comforting in this weird and backwards way. Sometimes to find shelter from the storm, you have to push onwards to the eye. — Colin Joyce, Driftmachine's New Ambient LP Is Jittery, Miserable, and Kinda Comforting Too

Regional Justice Center: World of Inconvenience

On its surface, Regional Justice Center’s debut album, World of Inconvenience, is a ripping hardcore record that checks all the right boxes—minute-long bursts of blunt, pissed-off mayhem, polished by producer Will Killingstorth’s trademark grimy sheen, and wrapped in a Mark McCoy original design. And if that’s as far as you need to dig to get your hardcore jollies, then fine – knock yourself out. But looking a little closer, World of Inconvenience tells a deeply personal story.

Regional Justice Center is the brainchild of Ian Shelton, and while the band is mostly his own labor of love – handling drums, guitars, and vocal duties on the record—Shelton leaned heavily on inspiration from his brother Max on this LP. The record was written as Max was awaiting sentencing for an attempted murder charge. World of Inconvenience details the exploitative, demoralizing difficulties of navigating the prison system and the toll they've taken, not just on Max’s life, but his entire family’s. — Dan Ozzi, Hardcore Clashes with the Prison System on Regional Justice Center's LP

Palberta: Roach Goin' Down

For the previous records, [Palberta's] writing was off-the-cuff, and mostly recorded before played live. This time around, however, with Roach Goin’ Down, which clocks in at 37 minutes with 22 tracks, their longest yet, the group spent more time than ever constructing their songs. Lyrics were a really big focus, and this was the first time the three actually went back to tweak and edit the tracks[...] It’s hard to pick a favorite of all these songs that waver between sweet and funny and fierce and straight-up weird. At first it was “Palberta,” where they proclaim, “Weeeeeee’re Palberta!” and then it was “Rich Boy,” a crackling flip on the Hall & Oates classic. But after hearing the trio talk about “Gimme Everything You Got, Girl,” it has to be that one. “Gimme everything you got, girl / Show it to me / I’m just a little baby / Show me what you got when you see,” they sing hazily. Though it was written while they were fooling around on GarageBand, they tell me (“just laughing and the words just came out and we thought they were kind of goofy”), looking back, it’s about the power of friendship between women. “When you feel weak or insecure, finding strength through the other women in your life,” Nina says. — Leah Mandel, New York Noise Punks Palberta's New Album Is Equal Parts Silly and Scary

Dos Santos: Logos

Dos Santos’ new album was born from a place of intensity. They say about as much in a documentary about the making of the record, gesturing at the terrible run of a few months, on a geopolitical scale, that marked the middle of 2017. Hurricane Maria caused a humanitarian catastrophe that Puerto Rico is still recovering from, the Charlottesville rally and ensuing protests became an extremely visible marker racial violence happening around the country. The world, as it often does these days, felt like it was teetering wildly, barely in control. It was in those months that the Chicago quintet began making their new record, which they say functioned as a way of holding off the bad feelings. — Colin Joyce, Dos Santos' Borderless Psych Jazz Is Ecstatic and Essential

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